Isaiah 23:1

A Prophecy Against Tyre

1 A prophecy against Tyre: Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For Tyre is destroyed and left without house or harbor. From the land of Cyprus word has come to them.

Isaiah 23:1 in Other Translations

1 The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.
1 The oracle concerning Tyre. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor! From the land of Cyprus it is revealed to them.
1 This message came to me concerning Tyre: Wail, you trading ships of Tarshish, for the harbor and houses of Tyre are gone! The rumors you heard in Cyprus are all true.
1 Wail, ships of Tarshish, your strong seaports all in ruins! When the ships returned from Cyprus, they saw the destruction.
1 An oracle against Tyre: Wail, ships of Tarshish, for your haven has been destroyed. Word has reached them from the land of Cyprus.

Isaiah 23:1 Meaning and Commentary

Isaiah 23:1

The burden of Tyre
Or a prophecy concerning the destruction of it. The Targum is,

``the burden of the cup of cursing, to give Tyre to drink.''

This was a famous city in Phoenicia, which exceeded in renown and grandeur all the cities of Syria and Phoenicia F8, and was much known for its trade and navigation, for which it was well situated by the sea; and indeed new Tyre stood in it, about half a mile from the shore, before it was joined to the continent by Alexander the great: but this seems to be old Tyre, and, was upon the continent, which was built by the Phoenicians before the Trojan war F9, and two hundred and forty years before the temple of Solomon F11. It had its name (rwu) , "Tzur", in the Hebrew language, from whence it is called Tyre, from the rock on which it was built, that word so signifying. It is written here without a vau; and it is a rule with the Jews F12, that whenever this word is written full, with all its letters, it is to be understood of the city of Tyre; but if wanting, it designs Rome; and Cocceius interprets the whole prophecy of the antichristian city.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish;
not of Carthage, as the Septuagint version; but of Tartessus in Spain, which traded with Tyre, and from whence the Phoenicians are said to have large quantities of gold and silver. Some interpret it Tarsus, a seaport in Cilicia, which lay nearer to Tyre, the same place the Apostle Paul was of, ( Acts 22:3 ) though by Tarshish may be meant the sea, as it sometimes is, and as the Targum and Jarchi here interpret it, and so designs ships in general; or, as the Targum, those that go down in the ships of the sea; or all sorts of persons, from every quarter, that sailed in ships to Tyre, and traded with it; these are now called to mourning and lamentation, because their commerce with it was now over:

for it is laid waste;
not Tarshish, but Tyre; and this was done, not by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, who indeed besieged it for the space of five years, but took it not; the Tyrians with twelve ships scattered his fleet, and took five hundred of his men, this was when Elulaeus was king of Tyre F13; nor by Alexander the great; for though it was besieged and taken by him, yet before his time it had been besieged by Nebuchadnezzar thirteen years, and at last was taken by him, when Ithobalus was king of it F14: and this seems rather intended here, since seventy years after this it was to be restored again, which best accords with those times, as will be seen hereafter:

so that there is no house, no entering in;
no port or haven open to go in at, no shops to vend their goods in, no warehouses to lay them up in, nor inns to lodge at, as well as no private houses for the inhabitants to dwell in, all being destroyed by the enemy:

from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them;
Chittim was one of the sons of Javan, as was also Tarshish, by whom the isles of the Gentiles were divided, ( Genesis 10:4 Genesis 10:5 ) from whom the Ionians or Grecians descended; so that Chittim seems to design some part of Greece, or isles belonging to it. The Macedonians are called by this name; and Alexander the Macedonian is said to come out of the land of Chittim, as in the Apocrypha:

``And it happened, after that Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came out of the land of Chettiim, had smitten Darius king of the Persians and Medes, that he reigned in his stead, the first over Greece,'' (1 Maccabees 1:1)

``Beside this, how they had discomfited in battle Philip, and Perseus, king of the Citims, with others that lifted up themselves against them, and had overcome them:'' (1 Maccabees 8:5)

hence some think he is designed here, and the destruction of Tyre by him; and the words may be rendered, "from the land of Chittim he is revealed", or "appears unto them"; that is, as Jarchi glosses it, the destroyer to the men of Tyre, though he by Chittim understands the Cuthites. Josephus says F15 Chittim the son of Javan possessed the island Chethima, now called Cyprus, and from hence all islands, and most maritime places, are called Chittim by the Hebrews; and observes, that one of the cities of Cyprus is called Citium. And in the lamentation for Tyre, ( Ezekiel 27:6 ) , we read of the isles of Chittim; by which are meant perhaps the isles in the Aegean and Ionian seas, who traded with Tyre, and from these first came the tidings of Tyre's destruction to the ships or merchants of Tarshish; which agrees with a Hebrew exposition mentioned by Jarchi,

``from the land of Chittim is revealed to the men of Tarshish the destruction of Tyre; for the inhabitants of Tyre fled to Chittim, and from thence the rumour was heard.''

The sense which R. Joseph Kimchi gives of the passage, as his son David relates, is this,

``Chittim were merchants that went to Babylon, and told them that they might go to Tyre, and would be able to take it, and they would help them, and carry them there by sea.''

But it seems more likely that those trading people, by going from one country to another, got knowledge of the design of the Babylonians against Tyre, and acquainted that city with it. Some join the words, "from the land of Chittim", to the preceding, thus, "no entering in from the land of Chittim, it is revealed", or made known; that is, it is some way or other made known to the merchants of Chittim F16 that there is no entrance into Tyre, the city being laid waste and its port ruined, so that it is in vain for them to send their ships; to which the Septuagint in some measure agrees,

``because it perishes, and there are none come from the land of Chittim, it is carried captive.''

The Targum is,

``they shall come from the land of Chittim against them;''

which seems to favour the first sense.


F8 Curt. l. 4. sect. 2.
F9 Justin, l. 18. c. 3.
F11 Joseph. Antiqu. I. 8. c. 3. sect. 1.
F12 Bereshit Rabba, sect. 61. fol. 54. 2.
F13 Joseph. Antiqu. l. 9. c. 14. sect. 2.
F14 Ib. l. 10. c. 11. sect. 1. & contr. Apion, I. 1. sect. 21.
F15 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 1.
F16 So some in Vatablus.

Isaiah 23:1 In-Context

1 A prophecy against Tyre: Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For Tyre is destroyed and left without house or harbor. From the land of Cyprus word has come to them.
2 Be silent, you people of the island and you merchants of Sidon, whom the seafarers have enriched.
3 On the great waters came the grain of the Shihor; the harvest of the Nile was the revenue of Tyre, and she became the marketplace of the nations.
4 Be ashamed, Sidon, and you fortress of the sea, for the sea has spoken: “I have neither been in labor nor given birth; I have neither reared sons nor brought up daughters.”
5 When word comes to Egypt, they will be in anguish at the report from Tyre.

Cross References 5

  • 1. Joshua 19:29; 1 Kings 5:1; Jeremiah 47:4; Eze 26,27,28; Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:2-4
  • 2. S Isaiah 13:6
  • 3. S 1 Kings 10:22
  • 4. S Genesis 10:4; Isa 2:16 "fn"
  • 5. S Genesis 1:2; Ezekiel 26:4
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